Bhubaneswar: Ahead of the 2024 general elections for Lok Sabha and Odisha Assembly, it’s time for setting the houses in order and sprucing up the images of leaders of all the major political parties in the state. Governing BJD headed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik which is in the habit of preparing for the next elections immediately after winning one, appeared ahead of others.
The regional party has reconstituted its major frontal organizations dedicated to youth, students and women. The party also appointed senior observers in all districts and attempted to calm the frustration of MLAs who were dropped from the council of ministers or could not find a place in the last reshuffle.
This is not all: BJD also attaches more importance to Naveen’s image, which is the regional party’s USP in the ‘Election Market’. The party knows that none other than Naveen Patnaik can ensure victory of the conch candidates in the elections. While BJP and Congress are national parties, the BJD is purely a home-grown and state-based party with Naveen as its sole rescuer. Naveen’s ever-flourishing image is essential and the party always works in that direction, a senior leader said.
The BJD has planned a major image makeover of the party president after he gets the lifetime achievement award by the reputed Delhi-based NGO, the Capital Foundation. Naveen, who had felicitated others at a function of the Capital Foundation in 2014, will himself be honoured by the NGO on Sunday by former Chief Justice of India NV Ramana. By winning this award Naveen finds himself in the elite club of former Prime Minister I K Gujral, veteran legal luminary Ram Jethmalani, former Speaker Somnath Chatterjj and others.
Party insiders said that the BJD has planned a grand reception for the Chief Minister when he returns to the State on September 6 after receiving the award. The party has also been working hard to assemble a huge gathering of Odias in New Delhi itself to greet BJD Supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. The MLAs, MPs, Ministers and others are working overtime to organize massive gathering at Bhubaneswar Airport for a grand reception of Naveen. The Chief Minister was also given a similar reception at the airport when he returned from Pune after receiving an award in 2018, just some months before the 2019 general elections. The September 6 exercise is expected to be a repeat of the 2018 reception.
Meanwhile, Naveen has also reconstituted the BJD’s youth, student and women wings with jumbo teams much ahead of the 2014 elections. While the Biju Yuva Janata Dal has 194 members as office bearers, the number of the Biju Chhatra Janata Dal is 204. The BJD President chose to set up a much bigger team for the Biju Mahila Janata Dal. The women wing now has 363 members as office bearers giving a clear message to the people that the regional outfit continues to value empowerment of women. This is because it is the women who ensured five back to back victories for Naveen, engendered by the Mission Shakti and other welfare measures for the female folks in the state.
Naveen has all along been batting for the reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections for which he had written letters to all party Presidents and Chief Ministers to reserve at least 30 percent of seats for the women. BJD itself reserved 33 per cent of seats for women candidates in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and became the first political party in the country to take such a step in politics, dominated by males.
Naveen fielded Pramila Bisoi from Biju Patnaik’s constituency of Aska Lok Sabha seat and got her elected. It is another factor whether Bisoi’s election helped the people of Aska or not, but Naveen’s image at the national level was bolstered as a pro-woman politician.
Recently, in both the rural and urban polls, BJD fielded many women candidates and a majority of them were also elected. Patnaik also chose women to head 21 of the 30 Zilla Parishads in the state. Similarly, major Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) like Bhubaneswar and Berhampur Municipal Corporations also got women Mayors while many municipalities and notified areas came under the leadership of women. Now, setting up a jumbo women’s office bearers’ team, is an indication that BJD may opt to nominate 33 per of women as MLA candidates as it did in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
The opposition BJP has also not remained behind. The saffron party is busy in creating an impression among the voters that Prime Minister Narendra Modi places great importance to Odisha due to which a tribal woman from Mayurbhanj district has been elected as the President of India and many other Odias currently occupy important positions at the national level.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah during his visit to the state on August 8 called upon the party workers and leaders to ensure that the message of Modi’s good work and his soft corner for Odisha should reach all households in the state.
The BJP has also planned a series of activities in Odisha during the month of September. The BJP national president JP Nadda and other senior leaders will visit the state in September and interact with party workers here. Meanwhile, the BJP has appointed JN Mishra as its Leader of Opposition and also Sunil Bansal as Odisha in-charge ahead of the 2024 elections. The saffron party has given a clear signal that it will not sit silently and give a tough fight to the ruling BJD after Amit Shah said that the BJP will form the next government in Odisha as it has done in other non-Hindi belt.
The Congress which has been relegated to the third place in the state politics, has changed its OPCC president and appointed Gandhi family loyalist Sarat Pattnayak. He has set a mission to take the party to 90 from its existing 9 MLAs in the 147-member House in Odisha. Pattnayak has also announced that the OPCC will appoint its office bearers in the month of September.
It seems the stage is set for multifarious political activities in Odisha in the Pre-Durga Puja period of September before the Puja festivities roll in.